Jake Shields has beaten prospects, journeyman, legends and future hall of famers during his 19-year career. However, his greatest opponent to date appears to be bearing down on him: Father Time.
Shields will lock horns with Herman Terrado, as the Professional Fighters League continues its 2018 season with PFL 6 on Thursday at the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Admittedly, the stakes could not be higher for the longtime Cesar Gracie protégé.
“If I don’t win this,” Shields said, “I might decide to call it [a career].”
The California native has the fire to keep fighting but understands time runs out on all men. The former Shooto, Strikeforce and EliteXC champion has lost three of his last four fights, the latest setback the most crushing of all. Shields entered his PFL 3 clash with Ray Cooper III on July 5 as the biggest betting favorite on the entire card. The betting lines seemed logical considering their resumes: Shield owned wins over Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler, Tyron Woodley and Dan Henderson, while Cooper was 2-2 over his previous four appearances, entered their battle on the heels of a defeat and had been submitted three times already.
Despite what seemed like a tailor-made situation for Shields, Cooper had other plans. The 25-year-old Hawaiian stuffed Shields’ takedown attempts and pummeled him to a second-round technical knockout. The setback left Shields in a state of disbelief.
“It’s definitely a little shocking,” he said. “Watching him fight, I did think he was a huge power puncher with knockout power in both hands, but I thought he had some holes in his grappling.”
With that in mind, Shields pushed early for the clinch and, in hindsight, concedes he probably attacked too aggressively.
“In the fight, I just tried to rush it too fast,” Shields said. “I think I underestimated his wrestling a little bit.”
Another factor in Shields’ approach was the PFL format, where early stoppages score extra points, boost a fighter’s place in the standings and theoretically lead to a higher playoff seed.
“I think [it played] a little bit [of a role],” Shields said. “I’m going out there thinking, ‘I want to get this first-round finish.’ Instead of taking my time, I kind of rushed at him. I think that’s what got me caught.”
When Shields faces Terrado, he will be fighting for the second time in six weeks. Now 39, he has not fought more than three times in a calendar year since 2007 but feels cautiously optimistic about handling the quick turnaround, physically and mentally.
“It’s definitely tough going right back into a camp, [but] I still feel I’m able to train a lot and push,” Shields said. “I don’t really feel like I’m slowing down too much.”
After taking a week off to recover, Shields returned to training with a more measured approach since he believes he overworked himself for the Cooper fight. On occasion, he was in the gym seven days a week. In the final stages of preparation for Terrado at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, Shields scaled back.
“I did slightly less, still doing a lot, but toned it down a little bit,” he said.
Shields and Terrado find themselves in similar predicaments, having lost their season openers in decisive fashion. The welterweight competition has resulted in a number of finishes, and the top five fighters in the standings are in strong position to make the playoffs. That leaves Shields and his latest counterpart to compete with five other men for the final three spots. He respects Terrado’s abilities.
“I watched a bunch of his fights, and he looked a lot better than he looked [against Magomed Magomedkerimov],” Shields said. “Overall, I don’t see a lot of holes, but in his last fight, he definitely seemed overwhelmed, and the guy got him down and choked him.”
Shields would undoubtedly enjoy following Magomedkerimov’s lead while staving off any further thoughts of retirement.
“It would definitely be nice to go out there and win, get into the tournament and end my career a little better,” he said. “I never wanted to be a guy fighting and losing fights I shouldn’t.”
In a career that includes multiple championships and his role in headlining major events, winning the million-dollar PFL prize would represent another significant accomplishment among many -- especially at this late stage of his journey.
“It would be a good achievement,” Shields said. “At my age, to come back and win, that would be pretty impressive.”